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Disney Canon Countdown: The Revival Era

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We’re in the home stretch! Six months ago, we began our epic Disney Canon Countdown, counting down the weeks to the release of Disney’s Moana. We’ve been through all the eras of Disney’s history up to this one, the Revival Era, or, as some like to think of it, the second Disney Renaissance.

We’ve already discussed some of the controversy surrounding Meet the Robinsons, Bolt, and The Princess and the Frog. Some people include one or more of them in the Revival Era, while others consider them to be Post-Renaissance. While I personally would like to consider them as their own little transitional era, we at the Rotoscopers decided, for a variety of reasons, that they were probably best considered as part of the Post-Renaissance era, due mainly to the enormously successful box office runs that the Revival Era has seen, something that the three aforementioned films can’t really boast.

The first of these massive successes came in 2010 from Tangled, Disney’s spin on the classic fairy tale, Rapunzel. This was Disney’s first 3-D animated, princess movie, and after the disappointing return on The Princess and the Frog, expectations were high. Disney even went so far as to change the name of the film from the classic title, Rapunzel, to the more gender neutral title, Tangled, in the hopes of attracting a wider audience that they feared had been turned off by the use of ‘Princess’ in the title of the previous film. Whatever the reason, Tangled took in more than twice what The Princess and the Frog made, and the title change paved the way for more one-word descriptive titles in the future.

The next film in the era is really the odd one out. Winnie the Pooh is Disney’s final traditionally animated film, and not that many people are even aware of its existence, or if they are, they aren’t aware that it’s part of the official canon. While there were a few direct-to-video Winnie the Pooh titles in the past 20 years, this one actually came to theaters, and like The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh before it, it is actually based on the original stories by A.A. Milne. Unfortunately, despite being one of the best reviewed animated films of 2011, it did not do very well financially, further cementing 2-D animation in people’s minds as an antiquated genre.

Disney didn’t let the slight setback of Winnie the Pooh interrupt them though, and they got right back on track in 2012 with the release of Wreck-It Ralph. This original story about the secret lives of video game characters quickly became Disney’s most acclaimed, non-musical animated feature since One Hundred and One Dalmatians and earned almost $500,000,000 at the box office.

And then, in 2013, as almost everyone in the world knows, Frozen happened. This Disney take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Snow Queen, quickly became Disney’s highest grossing animated film of all time and went on to become Disney’s first animated film to earn over one billion dollars at the box office. Not only that, but it is currently the highest grossing animated film of all time.

While it’s almost impossible to follow up something that successful, Disney took its best shot the next year when the company released Big Hero 6, its first use of a Marvel superhero property in an animated film. While it did not quite reach the heights that Frozen reached, it did out earn every other film in Disney’s animated canon, except for The Lion King, and until this year, was Disney’s highest grossing, non-musical animated film.

Which brings us to now, 2016, when Disney released the anthropomorphic animal, buddy cop/mystery/comedy/adventure, Zootopia. As just mentioned, Big Hero 6 was Disney’s highest grossing, non-musical until Zootopia, which is still in some theaters and is slowly creeping toward Frozen’s record. While it most likely will not quite make it, as of this writing, Zootopia has passed the one-billion-dollar mark and is Disney’s second highest grossing feature, as well as the fourth highest grossing animated feature in history.

So what’s next? How long will the Revival Era last? While it’s impossible to foretell, the future does look bright. This year will see the release of Moana, the film that we’ve been counting down to since May. This will be a new, original story based on Polynesian myths, as well as a new addition to Disney’s line of princess movies.

There are no Disney films scheduled for 2017, but 2018 will see the release of not one, but two new films: the highly anticipated sequel to Wreck-It Ralph, as well as a new film based on the classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, simply titled Gigantic. Beyond that, we know that Disney is planning a sequel to Frozen, but there is no definite release date yet. However, if it is even half as successful as the first one, Disney has nothing to worry about.

And that’s it for this look back at Disney’s animated eras. Join us tomorrow as we enter the Revival Era, the final era of our Disney Canon Countdown, with our look back at Tangled!

How about you? What is your favorite film from the Revival Era? Which upcoming film are you most looking forward to?

Edited by: Kelly Conley

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About Jonathan North

Jonathan North is writer, photographer, video editor, and animation fan from Iowa. He studied advertising and design at Iowa State University, and also has degrees in multimedia and art. His favorite movie is Fantasia, and his favorite cartoon is Gravity Falls. Or maybe Steven Universe. He can’t decide. You can find more of his work on his blog, as well as his YouTube channel, where he reviews all manner things, including (almost) every version ever of Alice in Wonderland. His favorites are the 1999 version starring Tina Majorino, and of course, the 1951 Disney version. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, @jonjnorth.
  • experiment626

    Even with it’s disappointing box office I’d still consider The Princess and The Frog as part of Disney’s Revival Era. Wreck-It Ralph, IMO, being the most innovative piece of this era so far.

    • GabzGirl

      I agree. In fact I think Bolt should be part of the revival era too, since it was the first Disney movie in years to get great reviews and do very well at the box office. Meet the Robinsons is an odd one because while it isn’t a Second Dark Age Disney movie, it’s not really revival era either. I guess that one should stick in the middle!

      • Manuel Orozco

        I agree about Bolt

    • aquapyro

      I go with what Disney counts as this era of storytelling. Which in their case started with Bolt.

      • pretto

        The turning point between these two eras is clearly Lasseter and co. taking over the animation studio. And he is on record as taking credit for Bolt, but not for Robinsons (despite any contributions he might have made to that film.)

    • Fadi Antwan

      Yes! I still prefer TPATF to half the movies mentioned above.

    • It is kind of like Oliver and Company in regards to comparisons of era. The films set some of the formula which the others followed (Oliver started the musical formula), and Princess and the Frog started the more in-depth characters and more complex storytelling. Definitely a transition nonetheless.

      • Manuel Orozco

        Nice way to put it. The transition happened with two okay movies but things slowly got interesting on and off.

  • So are they now skipping a year between movies?

    • Manuel Orozco

      Sadly yes mainly for the sake of Pixar. Which is kind of crazy

      • XP I should’ve known Disney would bow down to Pixar someday. I didn’t know it would be literally though.

        • Manuel Orozco

          I didn’t think it would happen either. I love Pixar no matter what though

        • They did it last year, when Pixar released 2 films, so it’s not a surprise.

          • Manuel Orozco

            And they will do it next year as well with Cars 3 and Coco. I’m hoping however that Coco is pushed early since it being released on Thanksgiving when it deals with Day of the Dead seems weird. Besides, the Good Dinosaur’s Thanksgiving release last year did nothing for it.

    • Manuel Orozco

      Actually not anymore because Disney announced this week they will have an animated feature released November 2019.

  • Manuel Orozco

    My favorites so far in this era are Wreck It Ralph and Big Hero 6! Tangled, Zootopia and Frozen are on par with each other but not super awesome as some Disney fans think. The Revival Era has made me even more cautiously optimistic about the future of Disney Animation than I ever been my whole life. Besides I prefer CGI animation over old hand fashioned hand drawn.

  • Fadi Antwan

    Tangled and Wreck-it Ralph are still the best movies from this era and also some of the best Disney movies ever!

    • Manuel Orozco

      I can’t wait for the Tangled show on Disney Channel next year and Wreck It Ralph 2 in 2018.

  • experiment626

    While a lot of Frozen is overrated the scene of Elsa building her Ice Palace during “Let It Go” has to be one best pieces of Disney CGI to date.

    • Manuel Orozco

      No doubt about it. The Ice Palace is so beautiful.

  • I do agree that Robinsons, Bolt, and Princess are a transitional period between the two eras, but Tangled is by far the start of this current era. Who knows how long it will continue, but I am definitely enjoying it. My favourite is Wreck-It Ralph, and I really like Zootopia and Tangled. It was a horrible idea for them to adapt Winnie the Pooh as the second attempt for traditional animation, and even the other two films Frozen and Big Hero 6 are pretty decent.

    • Manuel Orozco

      I didn’t see Winnie the Pooh to be honest since I feel too old for the Hundred Acre Wood gang (no pun intended). I agree that three movies were the transitional period

      • Honestly, it is not really that different from the countless DisneyToon additions from the last decade story-wise.

        • Manuel Orozco

          Appreciate your honesty but no thanks

  • Wow can’t believe we’ve made it all the way to the Revival era now! This is gonna be so exciting ^.^

  • Rachel Wagner

    We did it! We made it to the revival era. I love this era of films. Tangled brought me back to Disney when I hadn’t liked a movie of theirs at the time for about a decade. I’m not as high on Wreck-it Ralph as seemingly everyone else but I admire it. I love Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia, so it is a great time to be a Disney film

    • Manuel Orozco

      I love this era as well Rachel despite how crazy Frozen’s popularity has skyrocketed over the last three years. Expect to see me review every movie except Winnie the Pooh and Frozen

      • Rachel Wagner

        Cool. I have the Frozen review so that is going to be a lot of fun

        • Manuel Orozco

          Good luck. Also spread the news the majority of the original Big Hero 6 voice cast are returning for the TV show including Ryan Potter, Jamie Chung, Alan Tyduk and Maya Rudolph. But Damon Waynes Jr or TJ Miller won’t be back. PS you already know what I thought of Frozen anyway.

  • Landon Kemp

    I dislike the term “Revival Era” or “Second Disney Renaissance” being used to describe this era because it’s far too nice of a term. I mean, sure, the movies are making a load of money, but from what I’ve seen of them, quality wise, the majority of them don’t come anywhere NEAR Disney’s best. I haven’t seen Tangled, but if what my brother told me is correct, it’s rather hit-or-miss. I’m still trying to see Winnie The Pooh in full, though I did get a glimpse at it, and so far it’s charming. Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6 were good overall, and Zootopia, despite several glaring flaws, was at least decent. Frozen, however, was just a hot mess of ideas that didn’t know what it wanted to be. The one-word descriptive titles are crap, the formulas are starting to get more predictable, and I strongly dislike the CGI direction that Disney’s been going in, because the CGI just looks like Diet Pixar for the most part. Call me bitter, cynical, nostalgic, whatever you want. I just find this era to be a mixed-bag more than anything, being run by soulless corporate “by-committee” reasoning for the most part, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it got considerable backlash not too far down the line.

    • Manuel Orozco

      Tangled isn’t great but I recommend still watch it while you still can.

  • SEjeffries

    I appreciate this era- with the exception of Frozen (which presented a more negative view) , I think this was Disney going back to its roots, and heralding all sorts of animated movies from the classic fairytale to the anthropomorphized animals, the light and fun to the more dark and serious. Exploring the worlds of superheroes and videogames, and this variety is something both Renaissance and Post Renaissance were lacking. I would love if Disney would produce more Hand Drawn films, but their CGI really has become an art form of its own so I can be happy for that 🙂

  • Dan Siciliano

    Ok top three best movies from this era of today…..”Big Hero 6″, “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Zootopia”. Worst, sorry, but a tie between “Tangled” and “Frozen” which I’ll get to later.

  • Míriam

    Really nice article, Jonathan! What I find interesting about this era is that it shows how a movie cannot stand completely alone. Yes, it needs to be good in itself, but to be a massive billion-dollar hit, it needs a little help. A sequence of good movies created a momentum that restored people’s faith in the studio and allowd for succes to snowball past the billion dollar box office mark. (Winnie the Pooh being the oddball. I believe because everyone is used to the franchise coming out in direct-to-video, so nobody really noticed it).